Nebbiolo is an ancient black wine grape that is indigenous to the Piedmont region in the northwestern corner of Italy. The grape’s name is derived from the Italian la nebbia which is a reference to the fog that settles over the area during harvest time in late October. Of all the wine grapes, Nebbiolo is one of the most difficult to grow, and as a result, only several very small areas in the world have the exact conditions of climate, sunlight and soil necessary to consistently ensure full ripening of the grape. Nebbiolo is a thin-skinned grape that is highly susceptible to many pests and diseases. The grape’s vulnerability is compounded by the fact that it has one of the longest growth cycles, (budding early and not ripening until late October), keeping it exposed to multiple risks of climate and pests every season.

Despite these challenges, there is one area that has the ideal conditions and soil that allows Nebbiolo to rise to its highest potential, lying just north and south of the town of Alba. Here, in the villages of Barolo and Barbaresco, some of Italy’s greatest wines are produced using 100 percent Nebbiolo as their foundation. Winemakers in these areas share many attributes with their counterparts in Burgundy, France including devotion to a single, difficult grape to grow, centuries of wine traditions that date back to Benedictine rule, and small, single vineyard production.

Due in part to modern winemaking techniques, the wines produced today in these two regions are very similar and complex, but because of soil and climate, there are distinct differences. Barolo is grown on steeper, cooler sites and the resulting wine is usually more robust and structured, requiring plenty of aging before it is ready to drink. Barbaresco grows in warmer, lower elevations, allowing the grapes to further ripen and the resulting wine is usually slightly less tannic, elegant and more approachable in its youth.

In both cases, the wines typically share the aromas of tar, truffle, cherries, violets, rose petals and dried fruits. These wines also tend to be fairly light in color and concentration, and usually orange-tinged, even in their youth. Because of their typically high tannic structure, both wines require long aging in both cask and bottle. Italian law requires wines labeled with the Barolo DOCG must be aged a minimum of three years, two which must be in oak. Barbaresco must be aged a minimum of two years with at least nine months in cask.

Pio Cesare Barolo 2006 Italy

Appearance: Rich, deep purple color

Aroma: Deep cherry and spice in the lush nose

Flavors: Spicy and viscous in texture, cherry, mint, allspice with a long firm finish. Includes notes of mineral and red plum

Finishing Notes: Well integrated and complex, will age beautifully over the next 10-15 years

Perfect Pairing: We would pair this Nebbiolo with quite a few suggestions, including; stew and slow braises, grilled lamb, veal or hanger steak as well as a rich pasta or risotto with porcini mushrooms.

WINE:30 is written by Karl Bradley and Jody Wuollett, who are both longtime residents of Door County. Jody is the owner operator of Chop Restaurant in the Sister Bay Country Walk Shops and Karl is the General Manager and Executive Chef of the Mission Grille in Sister Bay. They have both been awarded the first level of certification from the Court of the Master Sommeliers.